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April 23, 2019

History Lesson: A Closer Look at Zuccotti Park


World trade center, New YorkOne of the many green spaces located in the Financial District neighborhood is Zuccotti Park, formerly called Liberty Plaza Park. Just a ten-block walk from The Wagner, Zuccotti Park is known for its proximity to One Liberty Plaza and Four World Trade Center. Over the past fifty years since its inception, the park has borne witness to events and transformations significant to the city’s recent history.

But if you travel back further in time, you’ll find an earlier point of reference in the park’s history. During the colonial era, the soon-to-be park was the location of the first coffeehouse in New York City, then called The King’s Arms. A handful of years later in 1773, a large crowd gathered at the site to protest the Tea Act and the East India Trading Company. Many cite this event as the first public demonstration against the Tea Act in American colonial history.

Fast-forward to 1968, when a Pittsburgh-based company named United States Steel first erected the park in exchange for a height bonus on the construction of an adjacent building. By creating one of the first public open spaces with tables and seats in the Financial District at the time, U.S. Steel was able construct their building to the desired height.

In 2001, the park was badly damaged during the attacks on September 11th, but still served as a staging area during the following recovery efforts. As the city was able to start rebuilding the area, the park was given new trees, tables and seating to help restore the space to its original honor. Five years after the attacks, the park re-opened under its new name, Zuccotti Park, complete with granite sidewalks and floor lighting, which illuminates the space after dark. In 2008, the park received the American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design.

Currently, visitors can see two sculptures at Zuccotti Park: Joie de Vivre by Mark di Suvero and Double Check by John Seward Johnson II. The former is a 70-foot tall structure of interposing red beams, while the latter is a bronze rendering of a seated businessman. In 2011, a member of the Occupy Wall Street protests climbed the towering Joie de Vivre, where he remained for hours before being removed by police. During 9/11 recovery efforts, rescue workers often mistook the Double Check businessman sculpture for a lost survivor. Both eye-capturing sculptures provide an artful aesthetic to the space that already balances a natural feel with its industrial surroundings.